Dear Friend and Reader:
Within a day or so of the Aquarius eclipse overnight Sunday to Monday, a woman gave birth to octuplets, one of the few births of eight live children on record. Nearly 100,000 jobs were reported lost by American industry. A recently unemployed man shot his family of five, then killed himself.
Barack Obama was on Capitol Hill working to win the support of reluctant Republican legislators, whose political language (and notion of economic relief) seems to include only two words, tax cuts. Not a single Republican member of the House of Representatives voted for his economic proposal, reminding us they still exist. Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich refused to show up for his impeachment trial before the State Senate, and chose the talk show circuit to declare his innocence instead, only to appear at his trial at the last moment to testify. He has since been removed from office.
If you’re feeling your way though life right now, it might seem like we’re at the chaos point. The amount of data flying at us seems to be increasing exponentially: it probably is (we need evermore data processing devices to keep up with it, or is it the other way around?). Very little of that data is personally or culturally relevant. However, one interesting bit of information did percolate through, and was sent to me separately by at least five different people this week. Sunday before the eclipse, The New York Times Magazine published an article looking at the work of a new generation of female sex researchers who are studying the mysteries of female desire, or trying to. When I posted it to the Planet Waves web log, it got nearly 50 reader comments.
The lead study covered by the Times was conducted by Dr. Meredith Chivers, a Canadian psychologist and professor at Queen’s University in Ontario. She studied the sexual responses of men and women to a diversity of visual and auditory stimuli: men and women having sex, men together, women together, men and women masturbating (separately), bonobos having sex, a man walking on a beach and a woman exercising.
The data were collected by one objective method (a probe in or on the genitals to sense minute changes in physical arousal from second to second), and reporting by keypad to describe whether the subject thought he or she was aroused by a particular scene. Then the two sets of data — the body’s responses, and the mind’s responses — were compared.
Admitting that sex is better suited for exploration in poetry and art, and that there are problems inherent in this kind of research, I’m going to assume that Chivers’ experiment is valid, and focus on the interpretation of her findings. I think that the excitement generated by the article is an indication of a deep craving we have for some real information about sex, rather than the abstinence/hypersex messages that we get all the time.
Chivers demonstrated that men tend to have a narrow focus of what they think turns them on, and those are the things that their bodies respond to in the form of their penis growing more erect. If you’re a straight man, you get aroused by heterosexual sex or women together or a woman masturbating, and you know it. If you’re a gay man, you get aroused by images of men having sex or masturbating, and you know it. The copulating bonobos (despite being our closest primate cousins, who are known to have sex for pleasure and not just reproduction) did nothing for the men, consistent with what they reported. For men, Chivers determined that conscious arousal corresponded with physical response.
Women also have a narrow focus of what they think turns them on. Straight women said they were turned on by images of a heterosexual couple making love; lesbian women by images of a lesbian couple. But when the responses of their bodies were measured by blood flow and vaginal lubrication, they responded to nearly everything sexual, including the bonobos. The scene that got the least response was a buff man walking on the beach. Everything else, including the exercising woman, increased their blood flow and vaginal secretions significantly.
What does this data tell us? Well, Chivers and the Times expressed the findings as indicating that women are out of contact with what turns them on. They think very little does; in reality, nearly everything does. Men were described as having equally narrow interests, but as being more connected and aligned with their desires. I think that most men, including myself, would take this as vindicating.
Men who want to coexist with women sexually have nearly all encountered the maze of yes meaning no, no meaning yes, maybe meaning yes, yes meaning maybe, no meaning maybe and maybe meaning anything or nothing at all. The subtext: don’t believe anything women say. Forget about the Antioch College rules of sexual engagement (nearly universally adopted by campuses around the United States); there is no negotiating where yes and no have null values, or where nobody honors their meaning. Keep assuming; you’re more aware than they are. Women aren’t going to say what they want or what they feel because they don’t know, or they’re confused by the diversity of things they feel, or they don’t want to commit in words to something they might regret having said later. Now we have a scientific study, apparently one of many, that seems to establish this feminine property.
Chivers says she teaches her students that “arousal does not equal consent.” But in a world where we are trained to not speak honestly about sex, just to do it or avoid it, we might well ask what does. Usually, a woman signals with her body and not her words, and often this signaling is “unconscious,” such as open body language meaning she is open to approach. In practical reality, arousal does equal consent, and we all know it — until you start talking. Then the cognitive mind does indeed get in the way, unless the goal is awareness (which it usually is not, but which it surely can be).
One thing we can surmise from this study is that women are turned on by life itself. Let’s give this a name: biophilia. Anyone who has been erotically close to a woman might have noticed that her entire body and emotional field can become a sex organ under the right conditions; a puff of breeze blowing or the sound of a voice can be experienced as erotic. If you’re a man and you have this kind of response, you’re probably a poet.
If one lets go into that kind of general state of being turned on by the world, that’s a lot like total vulnerability. Whatever the cultural condition, mental censorship would be one possible adaptation to that amount of sensory input. Aldous Huxley in The Doors of Perception described the mind as a reducing valve; in this respect, women’s conscious minds were demonstrated by this study to be functioning precisely as such, filtering out their much wider physical and psychic perspective. That women might deny their response, or not be aware of it, may also be a product of conditioning, such as the feeling that their opinions or desires do not matter, or that they will be punished for them.
There are evolutionary reasons women need to be so sensitive. One human female function is taking care of the young, and that requires high awareness, including empathy (being attuned to the feelings of others). It also calls for setting your own feelings aside with a kind of mental override; or being consumed by the emotional environment of the bond with the child or children. There’s not a lot of room for self-actualizing in that space, that is, having a conscious relationship with specific desires. Neither do traditional models of relationship leave women a lot of room for self-actualizing. I’ve heard nearly as many stories of men becoming jealous of their partner going back to school as I have heard about their friendship with or interest in another man.
What I think is more interesting is that the focus of men’s desires and responses were identified as being so narrow. I don’t hold it as a virtue that men succeed at knowing what turns them on, within a very narrow range; it could be that both their minds and their bodies are shut down to the rest of reality that they don’t think interests them, but which might, were they more open. Evolutionary roles differ as well: when you hunt an animal, you must be aware of the environment to the extent that you listen to the birds and don’t fall off a cliff, but that’s all designed to help you focus on one goal. This includes the goal of pursuing a woman, often described by both men and women as a kind of hunt.
Men tend to be socialized into roles that require meeting a goal. Women tend to be socialized into roles that require them to be generally responsive to their environment; multitasking is an example of this responsiveness. At least the physical bodies of women are still connected to the full spectrum of experience, even if their minds have a different opinion; that is, even if their minds are becoming more like the bioenergetic systems of men: attempting to focus on one goal or one acceptable stimulus.
If you know something about astrology, you know we’re talking about Venus and Mars here. Both men and women have Venus and Mars in their charts (they never leave the solar system). It is socializing that drives the sexes to express one gender energy at the expense of another, or to fail to integrate the other energy.
Venus is a full-spectrum planet associated with females, femaleness, and desire on the level of receptivity. Castaneda proposed that the universe itself is female. To me it is the principle of emotional intelligence. It’s also considered an indicator of what we value; that is, what is truly important to us in a deep and abiding way.
Most people would associate Venus more with love than with sex, though it depends on your definition of sex. It rules Taurus, which has extremely strong preserver energy; and Libra, which is inherently relational, and seeks beauty and balance. The glyph of Venus is a circle with a cross below it; grounding is suggested, and a connection between the “celestial” and the “mundane.” The image is reminiscent of women’s genitals beneath a pregnant belly.
Mars is a circle with an arrow reminiscent of the Sagittarius glyph. That arrow is about attaining a one-pointed goal. As Dale O’Brien once suggested to me, Mars is a sharp object. It’s designed to penetrate. Penetration requires identifying, seeking and hitting the mark. There is an element of precision required, and danger suggested. That arrow, the working end of Mars, is grounded in the circle; perhaps the world. It’s focused upwardly, on an idea or goal (incidentally, at the angle of an erect penis meeting a pair of balls). Mars rules Aries, which is about self and initiative; and Scorpio, the sign associated with the genitals.
Women’s physical sexual responses are more closely aligned with what we think of as Venus, which is a biophilic kind of energy. The desire of warrior Mars is equally intent on killing or conquering as it is on impregnating. We all have both planets in our charts, though men tend to be more like Mars and women more like Venus. This is primarily due to socializing, though biology — itself shaped by the socializing processes in the environment — is directly involved.
What astrology does not generally admit is how profoundly corrupted both of these energies are right now. A few examples will suffice. If Venus is about emotional intelligence, beauty and what we value, think of how these are stamped on (or out) by advertising, which manipulates and dictates to us what we’re supposed to think and feel. There are thousands of drugs on the market designed to override our feelings. The entire environment is awash in chemicals that mimic female hormones (called xenoestrogenic compounds), disrupting both male and female hormonal processes, psychology and I believe our sexual signaling.
Mars is focused by social conditioning on the goal of acquisition, conquering or getting off. In our era, its warrior energy is generally not allocated toward social processes like environmentalism or the peace movement, but rather programmed to connect with the desire to kill by countless media images of combat and death; or to fuck as many women as possible, generally in imaginary form (pornography). As many have noted, it’s perfectly appropriate to show blown-up body parts and dead children on primetime television, but a breast sets off the alarms, the spam traps and the wrath of the FCC.
Women, more closely associated with Venus, are in a double bind. On the one hand, they are told that to have any value, they must go out and work and be like men. Raising children has been devalued (including by economics) to the point where few people do it full time, which is a recipe for society falling apart. Their biology is still in tune with the physical necessities of children and partnerships, while their minds are being trained to deny these things and participate in the world, if only out of economic necessity. Even the role of Venus as caregiver is being pathologized out of existence; “caregiving” is a psychological buzzword for a woman denying her own needs, and is considered something to remedy.
Many men are gradually growing out of their conquering warrior roles, and becoming more attuned to the full spectrum of experience, which includes intuitive responsiveness to relationship partners and to the needs of children. Yet they too are in a double bind; this is extremely difficult in a world that does not value this psychic posture. We still live in a world of women who often don’t know how to handle male sensitivity or emotional availability; who assume, perhaps out of ignorance, conditioning or convenience, that men are impervious to pain — and this itself is a profound double bind, and one that has not been identified in any gender studies discussion that I’ve ever encountered.
As relates to men, I have another question: how do we handle women opening up to the full spectrum of their sexuality? By its inherent many-valent nature, there are episodes from the lives of sexually awake women that would explicitly exclude men. Others might involve other men. They probably would, once the dictum of monogamy were lifted. Ultimately the freedom to express the prerogatives of what amounts to infinite erotic potential must be hers exclusively, if it is to be anything at all, and this will be the tipping point in female equality to men.
We can see that the world is in chaos right now; we see this wherever we look. James Hillman, one of the preeminent Jungians of the 20th century, talks about how Venus would call to Chaos every night and they would made love. Because they made love, she would seduce him into not completely destroying the world. The role of Venus is to stop this beautiful world from being swallowed up by insanity, which apparently existed long before television.
But Venus right now is in a difficult situation. For one thing, there is an overwhelming amount of chaos to embrace, including hormonal chaos that scrambles the body’s signals; the chaos of a world at war; and a world in economic transition/transformation based on a previous collapse of values. For another, there is the constant influence that she must be more like Mars: one-pointed. She is pressured constantly to close her mind to the profound beauty of life, and cease to be biophilic. And we know that she’s being conditioned or pressured to shut down to the pain of war — otherwise we would be hearing more from her. (We will learn more about this cycle of myths during the upcoming Venus retrograde in Aries, which touches on the precious subject of narcissism.)
Shutting down will not work, is not working. We need more sensitivity, not less. We need to focus on goals, but not at the expense of reality. And we need to consciously embrace the chaos that is gradually enveloping us. How do we call to the chaos with love, and not try to delete it, filter it out or stick it in a folder? How do we engage the chaos — perhaps as a creative source?
Venus wants to say: I can take on chaos. I can make you feel wonderful, and take the edge off of your desire to destroy. I can embrace anything (and this does need to include emotionally sensitive men). For us who are alive today, this is a political task, an environmental necessity, a relational task and a sexual one as well: it has a name, Kaleo. This is the most divine gesture of loving the universe, the core cosmic dharma of Venus.
Yours and truly,
A Weather Report from Beyond our Solar System
For the first time in the history of astronomy, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope is delivering us a weather report from outside our solar system. The weather observed — volatile with a chance of eccentric — is on planet HD 80606b, which is 190 light years away, meaning we’re receiving the report from 190 years ago. The planet, discovered by Dominique Naef of the Geneva Observatory, Switzerland in 2001, is gaseous, similar to Jupiter. HD 80606b is one half of a binary star system, though the stars are more than arm-length from each other — the twins are separated by a distance close to that between our Sun and Saturn, times 125.
In fact, distance isn’t the only thing that’s bigger outside of our solar system: HD 80606b is about four times larger than Jupiter (our largest planet by a long-shot) and its weather is much crazier. To understand the parallels, consider that Jupiter’s biggest storm is ongoing, known as The Great Red Spot, an anticyclonic storm that began at least two centuries ago, and makes a full counter-clockwise rotation in about six days. The weather conditions on HD 80606b change every six hours.
Here’s how it happens: HD 80606b takes about 111 days to make a complete elliptical orbit, so its year is 2/3 shorter than an Earth year, while its days are 34 hours long. If you’re confused, you’re not alone: according to NASA, it has the most unusual orbit ever recorded. As it nears its sun-like star, the orbit speeds up, and its proximity to the star changes from 2.8 to 78 million miles away. This quick shift results in temperature changes from 980 to 2,240 degrees Fahrenheit, all in a six-hour period.
The Spitzer Telescope, responsible for gathering this data, is named after Lyman Strong Spitzer, Jr., the man behind the Hubble Space Telescope and the race to the Moon.
To the Moon, Majel!
When Ralph Kramden threatened to pop his Alice “to the Moon!” it’s unlikely he would have dropped $10,000 dollars to do it. Star Trek fans, however, will be relieved that their favorite husband and wife team, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and his producer/actress wife, Majel, will spare no expense to make it to the Moon — or rather, deep space — together.
Jan. 26, the Celestis Memorial Flight Service announced plans to send the dynamic space duo on the maiden voyage of the USS Voya– er, the Voyager Memorial Spaceflight Service. It’s mission: to seek out and find a suitable eternal resting place. Launch date, 2012.
The flight will carry a payload of several ounces of the Roddenberry’s cremated ashes, as well digitized tributes to the couple from Star Trek fans.
We recommend a launch date of May 10, 2012. On this date the asteroid Roddenberry will form an exact conjunction at 7+ degrees Aries with the hyper-spacey, futuristic planet Uranus. Asteroid Roddenberry will also form a trine that day with two points in Saggitarius, the sign of long-distance travel. The two points are the North Node and the asteroid Juno. The North Node gives us a symbol of our future; Juno is the symbol of the wife or the spouse. Clearly the future for Majel Roddenberry could be a very long-distance trip. Getting shot into space would certainly qualify.
We wish them both a peaceful voyage.
Weekly Horoscope for Friday, January 30, 2009, #751 – By ERIC FRANCIS
Aries (March 20-April 19)
Now that Mercury is about to station direct, you can resolve a professional issue by the one method you have not tried yet — stating clearly what you need. Be aware of an emotional block to doing precisely that: which may be the feeling that you will come uncorked, or reveal some deep contradiction in yourself the moment you attempt some clarity. This may help explain why you’ve been so pushy on the one hand, but reluctant to reveal your inner thoughts on the other. In any event, Mercury does not change directions until Monday, and I suggest you not take action or declare your intentions till then. When Mercury stations direct or retrograde, it always comes with a revelation of information or a new layer of truth, and this is exactly what you need.
Taurus (April 19- May 20)
Venus is now getting into position for one of her rare retrogrades, which spans from March 6 through April 17. For you, this process begins when Venus enters Aries next week, which is likely to have a double effect on you psychologically. One thing you may experience is the sense of being detached from yourself, unable to make contact with your usual motives. Another thing you may experience is a sense of having access to some version of your secret self. The sequence of astrological events, however, suggests that you are coming to terms with some sense of loss, ego death or enforced growth. If you go through that process consciously, despite the temptation to go to sleep, you will discover that this is a truly meaningful awakening.
Gemini (May 20- June 21)
Capricorn for you is the sign of agreements, and that’s where your ruling planet Mercury is coming to a stop, turning around and returning to forward motion. You may feel like some understanding or arrangement is demanding more alterations than a tailor sees in a month. Accusations or the sense that everyone is a flake may be circulating. Don’t take this too seriously, and try to be polite as everyone works out the details. This is not the time to get attached to any one plan. Rather, it’s the time to assess the available information and make your decisions based on that. Given that this most important thing is the one you’re most likely to forget when you need it most, I would sum it up thus: pay attention and use what you know.
Cancer (June 21- July 22)
If you’re getting along with anyone at all, count yourself lucky. You probably are getting along with some people, and developing a sense of detachment from the ones who are proving to be about as much fun as chicken pox. And you might want to remember that you are not responsible for the aggression or mentally odd actions of anyone close to you. I think you’ll feel a lot better when you do this. Meanwhile, there are several people for whom you are flavor of the month. They may have strange ways of showing this, and at least one of them who likes you the best has not breathed a word about it. Listen carefully for when they do.
Leo (July 22- Aug. 23)
The Sun in your opposite sign Aquarius is making aspects to a bunch of other things in Aquarius, namely two very intense centaur planets and Neptune. This, along with an eclipse there earlier in the week, suggest strongly that you need to be cautious in your relationships, take nothing for granted, and not assume you know the truth until you have exhausted every other possibility. If you act like you distrust people, you’re likely to actually lose their trust. Yet you have to be careful what you let go of and leave in their hands unconsciously. The key to navigating astrology like this is not expecting any two days to be the same, which you’re pretty good at, and remembering that both you and anyone close to you have many facets — of which you are seeing and combining many possibilities lately.
Virgo (Aug. 23- Sep. 22)
You have been working overtime trying to unravel the many knots, kinks and inhibitions that have suddenly made themselves known to you. It might be easier if you were not burning up with desire at the same time as you’re trying to set yourself free, but then what motivation would you have? What I suggest you work on is the extent to which the freedom you’re seeking is about unraveling a mental block. You seem to have it mixed up with a moral issue; with being right about something. This is the problem. Once you recognize that allowing yourself to want what you want is legitimate, it will be a lot easier, but then you will have to stop using morality as an excuse.
Libra (Sep. 22 – Oct. 23)
To those with few proclivities to creativity, the notion of making something out of nothing must seem strange. Rght now this notion may seem not only strange to you, but a little dangerous. To access creativity, as you’re likely to be discovering, you need to reach into those shadow places where old material, pain, conflict and fear may be hidden. The reason most people don’t allow themselves to be creative is not about their talent; it’s about the way humans tend to manage their relationship to their pain, and to the past — which is typically by denial. Art is affirmation. Love is affirmation. Sex is affirmation. And they all bring up everything unlike themselves; which become the elements and chemicals of which they are formed.
Scorpio (Oct. 23- Nov. 22)
Get ready to change your mind about something you thought was really, really important yesterday. You need practice doing this: unless you’re in a pretty deep coma, it should take less than a decade to make a decision. Actually, it only takes a moment, no matter how long you think it takes. The things that get in the way are all the trappings, expectations and attachments to the past that you think are so important, and invariably come around to deciding are not so important. I suggest that while you’re working out this decision, you notice your attachment to attachment. Is this a game? Is it something you use to hide from your own potential? Or are you concerned that once you hang loose for five minutes, you’re going to turn into an anarchist? It could be some mix of the above.
Sagittarius (Nov. 22 – Dec. 22)
You can torture yourself all you want with various defensive reactions which are really a cover-up for not knowing what you want. I don’t think it’s a sin to be defensive, but it’s better to be honest about this, and to explore your options. You seem to know what you want, on one level, but have this notion that someone else is plugging up the works and preventing you from getting there. More likely, it’s what you think someone else thinks that’s preventing you from making contact with your authentic intentions. Why exactly do you care so much? As a Sagittarian it’s unlikely that you would admit to being driven or rather paralyzed by your own insecurity. You may be rather nervous about imagining what would happen if you actually stepped into your confidence, and owned fully that only you can influence this.
Capricorn (Dec. 22- Jan. 20)
You are obsessed with a work issue. Let me give you a clue. There is a diplomatic solution. If you’re a lawyer, you can settle the case. If you’re a boss, there is an ally who can help you work out the right arrangement. What you need to know is that someone who seems to have one opinion actually has a very different opinion, if anyone would bother to talk to them and find out about it. If things have not gone well by the end of the week, pretend it doesn’t matter and try again Monday. Even if someone hung up on you, slammed a door or was acting like they didn’t recognize you, try again Monday.
Aquarius (Jan. 20- Feb. 19)
You may have the feeling that you don’t know yourself, and some days, that you really don’t like yourself. I don’t mean to sound like someone impersonating a Buddhist monk, but don’t take this seriously. You can feel like a healer one day, a mean ornery person the next day, a saint the next day and a liar that evening. Yes, it’s sure interesting being human, isn’t it? All of this is designed to point you to a deeper layer of what we think of as “identity.” It’s not the fleeting, flying thing that you’re experiencing so blatantly right now. What you are getting a sense of are the facets of your ego structure, rather than who you actually are. As each of those facets goes by, reach deeper. And pay attention to what is consistent from day to day, even if your own opinion is not on that list.
Pisces (Feb. 19- March 20)
If certain friends or loved ones have made a point of being unavailable, give them a second chance, and make sure you have time for them when they’re ready to come around. God gave everyone eyes, but not everyone can see the light of day. The Goddess gave everyone feelings, but not everyone pays attention to them. I can tell you that the reprieve you’ve had from getting too much social attention has provided you with an opportunity to observe something about yourself, and about people in general; something that’s going to be useful when you resume conversations that stopped weeks or months ago. This year is about making contact with yourself. That contact is likely to be deeper than the dialog you perceive others as having with themselves, which may or may not be true.